"What we had in this country before Sept. 12 was not democracy, it was anarchy. No one could trust anyone. The country was tearing itself apart. The military had to step in.They brought order and slowed inflation. Now we can plan for the future."
These remarks were volunteered by the first Turk I met on arriving in Istanbul. He was the taxi driver who took me from the airport into the bustling old city.
In the month that followed, I talked to several hundred more Turks in all stations in life and in many parts of the country. Their comments were all variations on the same theme.
Some went even further. "[Gen. Kenan] Evren pasha must not give up power too soon," an Ankara businessman declared."We don't want the old politicians back. I hope the military stays for 10 years."
Only a small part of the population seems to share this sentiment, however. The military themselves do not. They and most Turks want to return to parliamentary rule. But they all want the system reformed so democracy will not become deadlocked again.
Devising a better system requires time. The job has to be done in tandem with sweeping economic reforms. And the process of rooting out terrorism must be completed.
It is hard to find people in Turkey who feel oppressed by the military regime. The country is experiencing an exhilarating surge of self-confidence. People recall the killings, which had reached a national rate of 28 per day by the time the military stepped in 10 months ago, and laud the security that now exists in the streets, in factories, in schools.
"The worst thing was to try notm to take sides," an engineering student at the University of Ankara said. "I didn't want to be either a rightist or a leftist, but I was attacked by both extremes. I gave up and joined the rightists so they could protect me against the leftists."
His roommate added: "Extremists terrorized all the rest of us. Now we are all Ataturkists again.
We don't argue parties. We study. And we have time for other things: sports , music, hobbies, dating. It's a great relief."
One cannot walk more than three blocks on the streets of Istanbul or Ankara without passing a two-man military patrol, automatic weapons at the ready, strolling among the crowds.People see these young soldiers as symbols of the new stability in Turkish daily life. They watch girls, chat with passers-by, are offered free tea in chayhanes.m
Like their colleagues manning road checkpoints in remote parts of the country , they are obviously under orders to be friendly and helpful to ordinary citizens.
Some Europeans seem to have difficulty understanding the bland form of military administration which Turkey is experiencing. Criticisms of European journalists, motions of censure in European parliamentary bodies, and the preoccupation with allegations of oppression and torture have generated strong irritation among Turks.
Turkish feelings toward America, on the other hand, are warmer than they have been in more than a decade. Seyfi Tashan, head of the Turkish Foreign Policy Association, sums it up: "The Carter administration is praised for lifting the arms embargo and increasing military and economic aid. The Reagan administration's tougher stance toward the Russians and its condemnation of international terrorism have been welcomed both by Turkish leaders and the majority of the population." The terrorist legacy
As the arrest and interrogation of terrorists continues, the extraordinary dimensions of the problems are beginning to come into sharper focus.
Martial law authorities calculate the value of weapons and ammunition confiscated to date at more than $250 million. Arms are still being collected at the rate of 5,000 items per day. More than 25,000 people active in terrorist and subversive organizations, both leftists and rightists, are in custody, and every evening, television features new confession by groups of these men and women.
Their stories are chilling.In spite of an overlay of idealism, their immediate purposes were primarily destructive. Most come from middle-class backgrounds, and they are overwhelmingly young -- many between the ages of 18 and 28. about 10 percent of them are women. The distinction between leftists and rightists is not always clear.
Terrorist incidents are now few, but spectacular, such as the hijacking to Bulgaria in late May of an Istanbul-Ankara flight with several US banking officials on board. The Bulgarians have not delivered the hijackers to Turkey. They will probably join the more than 100 hard-core terrorists Turkish security officials say are enjoying asylum in Sofia.
What is to be done with the imprisoned extremists?Those guilty of murders, bank robberies, and other activities in direct support of terrorism are being tried and sentenced. The assassin of US Navy Petty Officer Sam Novello was recently hanged. Men who helped would-be papal assassin Mehmet Ali Agca escape from prison and provided him with false documentation for the travels that led to Rome have recently been apprehended.
The Agca case rankles Turkish security officials. They alerted the Germans and Italians to his aliases and movements. Nothing happened until the attempt on Pope John Paul II's life. No one in Turkey will concede that a Turk could decide to assassinate the Pope out of nationalistic or Islamic motives.
A devout Muslim is Kars said to me, "I admire John Paul. We have high regard for him both as a religious leader and a Pole. No honest Turk could want to kill this man. Agca was mad or a tool of the communists, or both."
The Agca mystery is far from clarified. Government officials in Ankara fear the Italians may not get to the bottom of it.
Security officials are accumulating a great deal of information about links abroad. Weapons flowed in from Bulgaria and Syria as well as by sea. The $250 million in confiscated arms and ammunition appears to be only a minor part of the total cost of terrorism in Turkey over several years.
What about the weapons and explosives already used? Those not yet uncovered or destroyed? The cost of transporting them all to Turkey? Living and travel expenses of the terrorists? Mehmet Agca, for example, traveled on a scale comparable to that of a wealthy Turkish businessman.
Security officials put the cost of terrorism in Turkey over the past two or three years at $1 billion. This is a sum equivalent to total US and West German military aid to Turkey during the same period. Where did all this money come from?
Adm. Isik Biren, the tough National Security Council staff officer who oversees the effort to expose terrorism and subversion, had a study done of terrorist bank robberies in Turkey during the past three years.
"The money taken during all these robberies," he observes, "adds up to no more than 2 percent of the real cost of terrorism during the period. We were surprised to find that bank robberies netted the terrorists so little. Links between terrorism and drug trafficking are being uncovered, but this is not credible as the major source of funds."
The mystery is unlikely ever to be fully solved. Two million Turks in Europe , traveling back and forth, offer infinite possibilities to cover movement of money. The Turkish leadership is convinced that terrorism is not financed internally.
Privately most Turkish officials, and most of the nation's general population , believe that terrorism was supported as part of a basic destabilization program underwritten by the Soviet Union. They hesitate to be more specific until they accumulate concrete evidence. Their position is parallel to that of the Reagan administration on the broader issue of international terrorism.
In the Turkish case there is one solid body of evidence that cannot be contradicted: the two Soviet-supported radio stations broadcasting to Turkey from Eastern Europe. Bizim Radyo and the Voice of the Turkish Communist Party have encouraged extremism in the same way the Baku-based National Voice of Iran fomented unrest in that country.
Since the military takeover in Turkey, the two stations have taken a more subtle line, alleging that terrorists are being imprisoned unjustly and tortured. Here they parallel some of the allegations of European socialists. There is no evidence that torture is condoned by the military leadership. That occasional harsh treatment of terrorists has occurred in a country where the Army, the police, and security officials became prime targets for assassination is not surprising. Economic boom
Turkey's main preoccupation is no longer with terrorists or the past, but with the present and future, and primarily with the economy.
For a people who were traditionally believed to have no business aptitude and little capacity for serious understanding of economics, Turks have experienced a remarkable transformation. No conversation continues for long without turning to economic issues and theories.
One of the military leaders' motives for taking power last September was to ensure continuation of the economic recovery program inaugurated early in 1980 by Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel. The architect of the recovery plan, Deputy Prime Minister Turgut Ozal, is a symbol of continuity. He is the only man the generals retained from the previous government, and it appears that Mr. Ozal's prov gram is working.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is pleased with Turkey, inflation has been reduced from an annual rate of 100 percent to 40 percent, the underground economy has evaporated, and the black market has been eliminated by daily adjustments in foreign-exchange rates.
Every bank in the country offers 42 percent for six-month deposits and 50 percent for a full year. Banks are lending money at 60 to 70 percent. The effect is an automatic sorting out of economic priorities.
Money for construction has almost dried up. People are not putting funds into traditionally safe, but economically unproductive, investments when they can get 50 percent for leaving them in savings accounts. Money saved this way is going into production for export, which is where Mr. Ozal and the IMF want it to go.
The whole country is caught up in an export frenzy. I had been in Istanbul only a few hours when I met a friend who used to work for the government and asked what he was doing.
"I am arranging exports to the Middle East," he replied; "just two simple products: mineral water and jam. If Perrier can make $30 million a year exporting water to the US, Turkey should be able to export water to Arab countries which have none at all."
Much more substantial exports are flowing to the Middle East in ever-increasing quantities: cement, buses, tractors, electric appliances, light bulbs, textiles, clothing, meat, processed foods. Turkish contractors, long active in the Middle East on a modest scale, expect to have $10 billion in construction contracts by the end of 1981. New contracts mean new jobs for Turkish workers.
With improved security and favorable exchange rates, tourists are returning to Turkey. Several bright young executives have been assigned to the Ministry of Tourism in Ankara to oversee expansion of facilities. Foreign investment in tourism development is eagerly sought. Turks are seeking foreign investment in many other fields. Minerals, long almost a state monopoly, are being opened to foreign capital. Oil companies are being given attractive terms for exploration.
Sudden and drastic economic reorientation has its cost, however. The infant automobile industry is severely strained. Its scale of operations is small and unit costs too high. Bus and tractor manufacturers, on the other hand, are doing well. Despite strains, no group in Turkey is happier with the progress that has already been made than the private industrialists.
"We have some factories in trouble," says Rahmi Koc, head of the country's largest industrial conglomerate, "but we have other factories that are producing four times as much as they did last year at this time. They are doing this with the same workers as before. The difference is that our workers now feel secure. They are no longer harassed by political agitators."
The bugbear of Turkish industrialists, and of a good many workers as well, is the now-proscribed radical labor federation, DISK. It tried to bring the economy to a standstill. The more traditional confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Turk-Is) is encouraging worker-employer harmony to consolidate economic recovery.
Price increases have been steep during recent months but are beginning to level off. Everyone is adjusting to simpler, tougher tax laws. There is no shortage of basic commodities. Istanbul's Spice Bazaar, like markets all over the country, is thronged from morning to night with customers. Shops are piled high with butter, cheese, pastrami, honey, fruit, and nuts.
A record wheat crop has ripened in the broad fields of Anatolia and Thrace. Turkey has always been able to feed itself, and even with a population still growing at the rate of 1 million a year, Turkish agriculture can increase production indefinitely as new fertilizer plants come into production and new irrigation projects begin to operate. Expanded agribusiness is a prime component of Turgut Ozal's recipe for economic success.
The target of $3.9 billion in exports in 1981 appears on its way to being exceeded. Some optimists talk of $5 billion in exports this year. Mr. Ozal is more modest in his expectations.
He is also far from confident that he has found a solution to the difficult problem of the state economic enterprises. These continue to play a disproportionately large role in the country's economy. Subsidies for them have been reduced and new employees are no longer being added. Hard decisions have to be made on plants started years ago and now nearing completion but with almost no prospect of profitable production.
Serious students of the Turkish economy, such as Yavuz Tolun, who operates the country's foremost business analysis service, agree with Ozal that the real tests of the economic recovery program lie ahead. Current export success results from government incentives and special exertions by manufacturers and trading firms.
Long-term reorientation of the economy from production for the internal market to equal or greater emphasis on production for export -- and to full participation in the world economy -- requires structural changes, improved quality control, and close collaboration with foreign partners who can provide investments as well as managerial and marketing skills. Politics in abeyance
The Turkish military administers the country with a light touch. The press remains gaudy, with vivid color photographs and dramatic human-interest and sports reporting, but it provides more serious news and reflective commentary than it did in the days of helter-skelter political demagoguery.
Some journalists complain of telephone warnings from the National Security Council, but these seem to be few and far between. It would be hard to make a case that there are serious restrictions on freedom of expession in the country.
Where are the former politicians?
Many extreme rightists and some leftists are under arrest. A few leftists have fled abroad. Officers of the two major parties are in enforced inactivity, and they have been denied the right to make public speeches and publish articles. They are free, however, to travel and receive visitors.
Former Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit misses few opportunities to meet foreign journalists and academics. Mr. Demirel seems less eager for such contact. But both display a unanimity uncharacteristic of the period when they were competing for office by telling visitors that the military takeover last fall was unnecessary because the politicians could have worked out a solution for Turkey's problems.
Almost no one else in the country shares this judgment. Leyla Cambel, who has written from Ankara for Zurich's Neue Zurcher Zeitung for years, recalls, "In five months of trying, the last parliament was unable to elect a president or pass any basic legislation. Mr. Ecevit and Demirel talk as if the generals had overturned a functioning democracy; it was deadlocked and the terrorists were winning."
The generals have announced that a constituent assembly will convene this autumn. Members of political parties and persons who served in the previous parliament, or as ministers in the government which the military set aside, will be excluded.
European socialists have been sharply critical of the military leaders for taking this position, and West Germany has told Turkey it will delay payment of currently due portions of both military and economic aid until September. General Evren in a speech in Amasya in mid-June accused former political leaders of encouraging European sanctions against the military government.
Ecevit's Republican People's Party, which was increasingly strained by factionalism during the year preceding the military takeover, is far from united in support of him. Several of his rivals are known to be happy that the ban on political activity will keep Ecevit from achieving political prominence again. When parties resume activity, they hope to replace him. It remains to be seen whether the party can reunite itself around a revived Kemal Ataturk-Ismet Inonu tradition.
Demirel's Justice Party appears to have better chances of resuming activity essentially unchanged.
Military officers are critical of both former political leaders for betraying the Ataturk tradition and reducing democracy to a travesty. They see Demirel's and Ecevit's willingness to ally themselves with former Deputy Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan's Nationalist Salvation Party and Alparslan turkes's National Action Party to gain advantage against each other as a major cause of the deterioration in public order that gave terrorism free play.
The generals are not happy at having had to take responsibility for government. They have vowed to return the country to full democracy. Few in Turkey doubt their intentions. General Evren has refused to announce a timetable, maintaining that doing the job well requires each step to be completed successfully before the next is taken.
Former Sen. Metin Toker, son-in-law of the late Mr. Inonu, who writes a column for the country's most respected liberal newspaper, Milliyet, praises the military leadership for its refusal to be rushed into deadlines. He sees the return to parliamentary government taking another two years.
The constituent assembly will sit through the coming winter and produce a revised constitution, which can be put to popular referendum next spring. Then party and election laws will be worked out. At the earliest, national elections could be held in the fall of 1982.
Meanwhile, serious questions of political structure will have to be decided: a French or even a American-style presidency? Direct election of the president? A one- or two-house parliament? Modified proportional representation of single-member constituencies? A supreme court?
Members of the constituent assembly have not yet been selected. The generals want to have participation by the country's wisest and most experienced men and women. Turkey has had only six presidents in its 58 years as a republic. Three of these are still alive and are expected to join the assembly's deliberations. They include Celal Bayar, the country's only purely civilian president, who served from 1950 to 1960, in the Adnan Menderes era. He was sentenced to death in 1961, reprieved, spent five years in prison, and did not have his full political rights restored until 1974. Still alert and active at 98, he is a revered elder statesman.
"The Constitution we adopted after the military deposed Menderes in 1960 had serious flaws," declares Prof. Aydin Yalcin of the University of Ankara. "What we are going to be doing now represents a new milestone in Turkey's modern history -- on a par with Ataturk's reforms and the shift to multiparty democracy in 1950. It is important that it be done right."
The military leadership shares this view. It is fortunate that this turning point coincides with Ataturk's 100th year. Observances of the anniversary are taking place throughout the country and are far from superficial. There has been an extraordinary burst of Ataturk scholarship.
For the first time Turkish political scientists are interpreting Ataturks's ideas on modernization and democracy not only in a Turkish context, but in terms of their applicability to the whole developing world. Thus in political theory, as in economic thinking, Turks are reaching out into the world. Strategic commitments
Turkey is worried about instability in the Middle East. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan confirms what Turks have always feared of Russian designs on lands to the south. They are deeply worried about Iran but feel immune from its religious commotion. They are pleased the Reagan administration is repairing relations with Pakistan.
But they see themselves as powerless to affect Mideast developments. NATO means a great deal to them. It comes up in conversation with military officers, government officials, and ordinary people everywhere.
Turkey maintains nearly 600,000 men under arms. Turks continue to do their military service enthusiastically, though Europeans, Turkish leaders feel, take this too much for granted. They see Turkey as a bastion of strength in the Middle East but do not feel themselves engaged.Only the West Germans have joined the United States in contributing to Turkey's military modernization effort. Hopeful propects
In recent years the Turkish drama has provided an excess of tragedy and frustration. Prospects have become much brigher. The country has proved unexpectedly buoyant.
Some international bankers project that Turkey will be one of the great economic successes in the period 1985-95. It led all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries in economic growth in the decade 1965-75. Turkey's relationship with the US and its European allies is not going to be problem-free, but problems appear easier to overcome now that the military leaders have set the country on a more predictable course of economic and political development.